Thinking about starting your own personal blog or a blog for your business?
Blogs are not only a great way to attract potential customers through organic search. They are also a great way to educate people and provide value.
The term value gets thrown around a lot in marketing, but blogging is truly one of the best ways to offer value to your audience. Value builds trust. And trust build relationships. Needless to say, starting a blog is worth it.
And like any task worth doing, it’s worth doing well.
Writing your first blog post isn’t as simple as sitting down and belching out the first 1,000 words that come to mind.
Writing a well-crafted blog post starts with planning.
Before you start writing anything for your new blog, ask yourself these 5 questions.
1. What is your voice?
How do you want to be heard in the community?
A good start here is to think about your favorite writers. What do you like about them? Come up with a list of adjectives you would use to describe your favorite writers.
Personally, my favorite writers are insightful, brutally honest, concise and funny. This is how I want my voice to sound.
Also, consider writers you dislike. What do they do that you’ll want to avoid in your first blog post (and every blog post to follow)?
Find your voice, and the words will come easy.
2. Who is your audience?
Before writing anything you need to identify your target audience.
If you are just starting out, you might not know anything about your audience. So think about your ideal audience. If you are a business, this would be your ideal buyer persona.
If you haven’t taken the time to develop buyer personas, use your imagination. Are you trying to reach stay at home moms interested in CrossFit?
What about video game nerds (and we use that term endearingly) who love MMORPGs?
Where does your ideal audience member live? Do they have a cat or a dog?
Write down the traits of an ideal reader. Keep your list close, because it will come in handy later on.
Once you’ve written a couple blog posts and are starting to build an audience, frequently review demographic information.
You might find that your readers are not who you think they are.
Having an accurate depiction of your audience will help in every step of the blogging process. As your audience grows, this information will help you connect with your audience. For example, knowing the age and location of your audience will give you clues on what social media platforms they might use.
3. Why are you writing?
When answering this question, keep your audience in mind. Why should they care about what you are writing? This is different from a goal because it is much more personal.
Are you writing because you want to show the world your Harry Potter fanfiction?
Are you writing because you have great ideas about home-organization that everyone should know about?
Are you writing because you have a product or service that helps people and deserves attention?
Think about what is driving you to write. If you can’t come up with anything other than a goal (Step 4), your readers will know. No one wants to read a sales pitch.
For Junto, we blog because we believe we can help people by writing about what we’re good at (we’ll talk more about this in Step 5). By helping and educating people we hope to become a resource for all things digital marketing. And maybe, when the time comes, you will reach out and we can help you directly.
4. What are your goals?
Your goals are different than what you identified in Step 3. Goals are the desired end result.
For most businesses, goals are very easy to define. You want to sell X amount of things and make X amount of money. Some blogs do have a distinct sales focus, but we’ve seen the most success with blogs that have a more educational focus. Having a goal for your blog that is higher up in your sales funnel makes sure you are not “selling” too hard. Not sure where to start? Check out this guide on building a content marketing strategy.
Some examples of goals include:
- Attract readers to your website
- Get readers to sign up for your newsletter
- Get readers to purchase a product (this is big for affiliate marketers)
- Get readers to comment or share on social media.
5. What is your Niche?
One of the biggest mistakes new bloggers often make is not having a niche. It is impossible to have a successful blog that covers anything and everything. Find what you want to focus on and stick to it. This is your niche.
Having a niche doesn’t mean that every article has to be about the exact same thing. Pick a niche that is broad enough that you can easily think of 10 topics off the top of your head.
Related: how to find a niche blog topic
One niche that I could easily come up with 10 ideas for is content marketing. I could talk about content marketing for hours on end and come up with 2-3 dozen different blog topics on the subject.
What can you talk about for hours? When you have an answer to that question, you know your niche.
Selecting your first blog topic
Now that you’ve identified your voice, audience, and niche it’s time to get to the fun part: actually writing.
Actually, not quite yet. First, you have to figure out specifically what you want to write about. This section could be its own 2,000-word article (and it will be at some point), but for your very first blog post we will keep it simple.
Write what you know.
Think back to #5. What is your niche? What are you an expert on in this niche?
Now look back at your ideal audience. What does your ideal reader want to learn about? What are they searching for?
Once you’ve come up with a list of blog post ideas, narrow it down to something you can explain in 1,000 words. Blog post lengths vary, but 1,000 words is a great starting point.
Once you’ve answered the above questions and figured out your first topic, the writing is actually the easy part.
We won’t drive too far into writing because you know your voice and your audience better than anyone.
But remember to be bold.
Blogging is a competitive space, so you need to make sure your content is better than the competition. Make your content more actionable, more informative, more colorful. More, more, more.
To make sure your content is better than the competition, do a quick Google search and see what appears in the top five spots. Also look at sites like Reddit and Quora, the upvote system on this sites explicitly tells you what other people find valuable. Consolidate all of the best information on the web into a single post and improve on it.
Making your blog content better than the competition is the first step towards ranking on the first page for search engines.
After you hit publish
As my colleague Pat likes to say (he probably borrowed it from somewhere else), “A blog post without promotion is like a house with no roads to it.”
What Pat is saying is that without the proper content promotion strategy, no one is going to see your kickass blog post. The difference between a successful blogger and an unsuccessful blogger hinges on promotion.
Once again, this section could be its own blog post, but I’ll outline some of the basics items you should do after your hit the publish button.
- Start with your social media accounts. Don’t be shy. If you created something you are proud of, share it with the world. Social shares increase your reach, which will eventually increase your audience.
- Use your email lists. This is mostly for businesses, but individuals can take this step as well.
- Look for link building opportunities. It is often said that links are the currency of SEO – the more links you have to your site, the more valuable it is. Link building can be very difficult, but one of the easiest things you can do is to start building relationships with other bloggers in your niche. Once a solid relationship has been built, ask them to link to your content (and provide a killer reason why they should).
- And my personal favorite: Tag your inspirations on Twitter. If there is an individual that motivated you to write on a certain topic, let them know! You would be amazed at how accessible your heroes can be.
As I mentioned, content promotion is a giant topic of its own that we will tackle another day. It can get complex, but it is a must-have if you want to grow your blog. But for your first blog post, stick with what’s simple.
My final piece of advice
Don’t stress about it.
Your first post isn’t going to be the best piece of content in the entire world. Neither will your second. Or your third. It’s going to take some time to developed your voice. It will take even longer to build your audience. And that’s ok.
As long as you identify your voice and audience, stay true to your niche, and pinpoint your “Why?”, you should be making strides towards the goals set out in Step #4 in no time.